Today was my first experience with seeing civil disobedience right in front of me. In what Rev. Jesse Jackson termed “possibly what Selma was to voting”, I witnessed people standing up for justice in their community. Over a dozen were arrested today in Freeport, IL due to civil disobedience against the Sensata Plant. After a day of coming together and learning more about the cause, I was extremely grateful to be there.
Sensata is an industrial plant that makes parts mostly for cars. The plant is scheduled to close next month and all jobs outsourced to China. Workers have already begun to be laid off and after today’s demonstration, the company has threatened to close sooner. Today workers spoke out about the closing of Sensata and how it has and will affect their lives.
One worker told the story of her husband getting laid off from Sensata this past summer and her worries of herself soon to be without ajob. She spoke of wondering how she and her husband will be able to support their three young children, let alone themselves. Reverend Jesse Jackson commented
“this is not a fight for severance pay, this is a fight for the salvation of jobs”.
Reverend Jackson headlined the march led by the American flag. The same flag that had been taken down and replaced by the Chinese flag while the soon-to-be unemployed workers trained their future replacements. With chants of “U-S-A” and “Save our Jobs”, the group march to the Sensata plan from a field where many of the laid of workers have set up tents and lived since being laid off. This area has been renamed Bainport because of the large stock ownership of the Bain Corporation. Reverend Jackson was the first to be arrested and the only to have actual handcuffs on his wrist. The Freeport police tried to use him as an example to others who would soon be arrested.
After being released those who protested prayed and continued to stress that this is only the beginning of a continued fight, not for severance pay but for jobs.
I want to make sure that I say that this event was a very touching moment. I was able to see people living in tents with hope for saving their jobs and even lives. I saw people from all colors working together in unison. Reverend Jackson says “This is not a fight of black and white this is a fight of wrong and right because when the lights fad to black we all look the same, so let’s turn the light on in Sensata and fight together”. I was also touched at the courage of those that were arrested, they did not know how long they’d be in jail or what the cost. The workers that were still employed knew that would mean early termination and they still went through with the cause. I know when the officer touched my arm and told me I was under arrest I was scared and although I was able to tell him there was no clear order to leave the scene (as I was clearly working) and he begrudgingly let me walk away. But even during this moment others worked together would not let the officer corral us.
It was also good that it was mentioned that this is not a fight against China it is a fight inside America. “the Chinese are not taking our jobs” -Says one Sensata Worker, “Bain is giving our jobs away, the Chinese are trying to make a living just like us”